Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Bill Maher's Love Letter To The GOP

Just found this on YouTube, it is pretty funny. Unless, of course, you are Karl Rove...or Michelle Bachmann.

Monday, April 27, 2009

Susan Collins Has Much To Answer For

One of the closest people that the GOP has to a moderate Senator is Maine's Susan Collins. In order to get her to side with the Senate Democrats on the stimulus bill, Collins had certain demands. One of those demands was to eliminate $780 million in funding for pandemic preparation. As in 'swine flu' pandemic preparation.

Media Matters put out the above video to make sure that everybody knows what she did.

Thanks to this brave Republican, we are less prepared, and therefor, less safe, than we should have been. She needs to be confronted about this.

You may contact Sen. Collins directly here.

At the site, you will be able to easily contact Senator Collins, to express your displeasure.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Brilliant Stephen Colbert Parody of Anti-Gay Ad

I almost did not post this, because Stephen Colbert does not have embedding capability on the net. However, Friday night's Countdown, guest-hosted by David Schuster, had exactly what I was looking for.

Since it is part of a longer segment, if you would like to go straight to the original ad, and the parody of it, start the above video at 1:20 and you will see the original absurd ad from the National Organization for Marriage on 'the gathering storm.' What follows from Thursday night's Colbert report is one of the most hilarious and spot-on parodies I have ever seen.

As Schuster astutely points out, the Human Rights Campaign (which is incorrectly called Human Rights Watch) has already said that this ad does not speak out against gay marriage, but complains about previous rulings that have outlawed anti-gay bigotry. So, as Schuster says, this ad is really about the right of these people to practice discrimination.

As a follow-up, Frank Rich's column today is an excellent piece devoted to the impotence and campiness of the original ad, and the parodies and ridicule it has generated. Mr. Rich does make important points, and even tells you about the people behind it. One Princeton professor probably will not like it, because the link on Rich's piece points to contact information for him.

You can find the Rich essay here.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Keith Olbermann On Awful Obama Decision On Torture

I don't really get what President Barack Obama is thinking, but I am continuing to be disillusioned by some of his decisions.

The latest is his decision to not seek to prosecute those in the CIA who committed torture, because they were 'simply following orders.'

I have always been one of those extremely naive individuals that think that if you don't try and correct the sins and mistakes of the past, you are doomed to repeat them. Doesn't this set a precedent that it is okay to break the law, so long as somebody with authority gave you permission? Even if the punishment is merely probationary, we need to get at why this was allowed to occur. To tell the world what we did and then tell those that committed the torture that they are unconditionally excused, because they were obeying governmental orders, is unconscionable.

Which brings me to my next point, the one thing that Obama did do right today was to release the Bush administration memos that advocated for torture.

So, now we know the truth about what George Bush authorized as president. He will never live it down.

I am angry that anybody is getting let off the hook here. I will let Keith Olbermann take over with his 'special comment' from tonight's Countdown. He far more eloquently expresses the rage I feel inside.

Thank you Keith.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Fox Reporter Calls For Protestors To Fight Fascism

I could barely watch Fox at all today. The network was not just reporting on a protest. They organized this entire teabag hysteria and crossed the line. Nobody can argue after today that Fox merely 'reports' the news.

What is worse, they are now fomenting anti-government agitation. If any violence comes from this, they had better run for cover, because they need to be held accountable.

Just watch the video above, from Media Matters, which showcases Cody Willard, from Fox Business News, asking the question, "Guys, when are we going to wake up and start fighting the fascism that seems to be permeating this country?" Fighting the fascism? On what planet do you live on Cody? How dare you compare Obama to Hitler, which is what you are, in essence, doing. And wait until you hear his definition of fascism, "big business and government getting in bed together."


If that is the definition, George Bush was the biggest fascist of all time. Or wasn't one of the primary reasons for the war in Iraq to profit the corporate friends of the Republican administration? These people are loony beyond belief.

Fox is beyond the point of just being a nuisance. They are now bordering on dangerous. Anyone doubting that needs to examine what inspired Richard Poplawski to slaughter 3 police officers, helped by the heated rhetoric of Fox nutjob Glenn Beck.
The link to that story is here.

I don't know what it takes to stop them, possibly a mass boycott of every single one of the Fox sponsors. But something has to be done. Now.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Following Up On President Obama's ASU Snub

In an earlier post, I had written about the hysteria over President Barack Obama's upcoming commencement address at Notre Dame University. I have to give Notre Dame credit, however, at least the campus knows how to treat a president with respect. They plan to award Obama an honorary degree.

Arizona State University is another matter, entirely. The president is planning on delivering a commencement address there as well.

Proving that anybody who asks the right questions can break a story, give credit to Adam Sneed, a student journalist for the ASU Web Devil.

As Sneed reported:
ASU will not award President Barack Obama an honorary degree when he speaks at the commencement ceremony on May 13.

University spokeswoman Sharon Keeler said Tuesday that the University awards honorary degrees to recognize individuals for their work and accomplishments spanning their lifetime.

“Because President Obama’s body of work is yet to come, it’s inappropriate to recognize him at this time,” Keeler said.

Previous recipients of honorary degrees from ASU had long-established careers in their fields of work, Keeler said, and they aren’t necessarily affiliated with ASU.
The story was quickly picked up by The Huffington Post, causing the University to quickly try to extricate themselves from the gathering bad press.

According to the initial Dawn Teo piece (from April 11th), after reporting that ASU would be honoring President Obama "in every way," Teo wrote:
When I spoke with an ASU official yesterday, I was read the guidelines, which say honorary degrees are given for significant achievements over a lifetime and for achievement of eminence and so on. Then I was told, "Obama's body of work is yet to come" and told that he could be considered for an honorary degree after his presidency.

Those don't appear to be the words of the Honorary Degree Committee, though. Laurie Chassin, who is listed on the Honorary Degree Committee's webpage as the active chair is actually on a one year sabbatical and says she "has no knowledge of this year's process." An official inside ASU says Obama was never nominated.
This was then followed up by a news release on the university website:
Arizona State University invited President Barack Obama to speak at its graduation ceremony out of the greatest respect for him as an individual and world leader.

“I apologize for the confusion surrounding our invitation to President Obama to address ASU students at commencement,” said ASU President Michael M. Crow. “The entire ASU community has been electrified with excitement since we learned of his participation in our commencement ceremony. We hope that the recent discussion of honorary degrees will not detract from the honor and thrill that ASU – and indeed all of Arizona – is experiencing in anticipation of his visit. I am honored, as are our faculty, staff and students, that President Obama will give his first commencement speech as president of the United States at ASU.”

In recognition of President Obama’s commitment to educational access and to an entire career dedicated to public service, ASU is naming and expanding its most important scholarship program in his honor. Going forward, this program will be called the President Barack Obama Scholars and will offer thousands of students with the greatest financial need the opportunity to go to college.

“It has always been our intention to recognize and honor President Obama's accomplishments during his visit,” said Crow, “but we had not yet determined the best or most appropriate way to do so. Although the focus and attention of the media and others has been on an honorary degree, we never felt that was the only—or even the best—means of honoring his tremendous service to our country. Naming this scholarship program after President Obama that will affect the lives of thousands of students is an honor befitting, not only the president’s exceptional achievements, but also his values as an individual. The President Barack Obama Scholars program will be a legacy that will endure and inspire others for generations to come.”
Teo did a follow-up story on HuffPo that mentioned this release and indicated the possibility of a bureaucratic snafu. In her follow-up Teo wrote:
the grapevine within the upper echelons of the ASU administration was surmising that the political snub was really a bureaucratic snafu.
Bureaucratic snafu? I don't think so.

You see, we still have the issue where an ASU spokesperson said Obama's body of work did not justify an honorary degree. It isn't enough that he has become the first African-American president? They want to see his performance. Yet, his body of work is good enough to issue a scholarship in his name?

So, I decided to follow up and contact the University myself.

Initially ASU representative Terri Shafer directed me to the news release on the school's website(not to mention the link to the Huffington Post article), that referred to the naming of a scholarship.

I wrote back saying that it made no sense to not award an honorary degree, yet name a scholarship after a man who did not have a sufficient "body of work."

This was her response:
The policy that has been the subject of attention was put in place in 2003. It was supposed to have removed conflicts of interest that result when honorary degrees are given to major donors and politicians still in office who can influence legislation that affects the university. The policy since that date has been to award honorary degrees to political figures late in their careers, after they have left office.

President Obama is a remarkably accomplished individual who clearly merits an honorary degree. We have learned a big lesson here, and we will take action to prevent something like this from happening in the future.
Well, if that is the case, wouldn't the naming of a scholarship in President Obama's name create even more of a conflict of interest? I think, for the sake of the reputation of ASU, they seriously need to change their decision on the honorary degree now. While Shafer said Obama "merits (the honorary degree) now," I am still waiting to hear whether or not he will receive one. The other reasons for witholding it went out the window when the scholarship was named after President Obama.

Considering that Arizona was a state that fought long and hard over even having a Martin Luther King Jr. holiday, this is something they should focus on correcting ASAP.

Arizona State University, from what I have read from Teo's pieces, is actually supposed to be a point of enlightenment in the state. Why should that reputation be needlessly tarnished by rigidity. Especially considering that the naming of the scholarship just threw their whole 'conflict-of-interest' argument out the window.

What Rush Limbaugh Considers An 'Ugly' Truth About Women

Rush Limbaugh has done it again. The Supreme Alienator, who once built his reputation with repeated references to 'femi-nazis,' continues to insure his irrelevance in 2009.

According to his Friday program, as transcribed at Media Matters, Rush had the following to say:
LIMBAUGH: This is a strange piece, but, nevertheless, this piece, if it gets wide distribution, will set feminism back 50 years.

It's a story from a website called BitterLawyer.com -- BitterLawyer.com: "Law professors won't tell their female students this, but one method some women use to get ahead in the corporate world has nothing to do with grades, or professionalism, or hard work -- just fake boobs. In a recent Bitter Lawyer poll, 58 percent of those asked said that boob implants could only help a woman's career, the remainder of respondents were split on the matter. Just over 23 percent of those polled paid -- said that such cosmetic changes were 'irrelevant.' "


LIMBAUGH: Can I redirect you to feminist truth number 24 -- undeniable truth of life number 24 -- written by me in the mid-80s? Feminism was established so as to allow unattractive women easier access to the mainstream of society. It's proved practically every day in our modern culture.
This particular rant begs a couple of questions.

First, why would any self-respecting woman, irregardless of her politics, give this man any credibility whatsoever? A woman who can listen to that and still find this man refreshing and entertaining needs a bit of help in the self-esteem department, no matter her political leanings.

Second, has anyone provided Rush Limbaugh with a mirror?

Maybe his comments are borne out of rejection. Whatever the rationale, it merely makes the man look like a pathetic narcissist (not that he needs much help to further that assumption along).

You have to hand it to Rush Limbaugh, he has no desire to speak to anybody but the hardest core of the GOP. And he obviously has no wish to attempt to persuade any moderates or independents to grow his audience. If he did, why would he keep shooting himself in the foot by revealing what a shallow, vacuous individual he is?

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Rachel Maddow & Republican Teabagging

This has to rank as one of the most hilarious news segments ever on cable network television. Rachel Maddow has a lengthy segment on 'Republican teabagging!'

Making it even more of a hoot, the guest commentator on teabagging is a woman named Cox. This is way too funny.

For those who don't realize why this is so funny, you probably should know the erotic definition of what "teabagging" is.

Rather than spell it out on this blog, you can discover the definition, courtesy of the following link.

Friday, April 10, 2009

President Obama: Where Are The Checks And Balances?

I need to start out by making very clear that I do not regret being one of the people who worked to get Barack Obama elected. As disappointed as I am, a McCain-Palin victory would have brought our country to its knees. There was no way irresponsible Republican rule could continue. Unless you were one of the 1 or 2% who would be reaping the benefits.

Having said that, my disillusionment with President Obama grows by the day.

The most recent revelations, are the most disconcerting to me. They concern the illegal wiretapping that began with the Bush administration, and the advocacy of the 'state secrets' privilege, which Obama specifically campaigned against.

From the Obama-Biden campaign website:
Secrecy Dominates Government Actions: The Bush administration has ignored public disclosure rules and has invoked a legal tool known as the "state secrets" privilege more than any other previous administration to get cases thrown out of civil court.
So, what are they now doing? Not reversing that policy, that's for sure. In fact, they are not even seeking to merely maintain the Bush wiretapping policy, which offered no accountability. No, the Obama administration is actually seeking to expand upon it.

As ABC news reports:
This time the issue was the National Security Agency's warrantless wiretapping program, and whether courts would be able to assess its constitutionality in a case called Jewel v. NSA, where the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) is challenging the NSA surveillance by suing on behalf of AT&T customers whose records may or may not have been caught up in the NSA "dragnet."

Last Friday, while President Obama traversed throughout Europe, his Justice Department sought to have Jewel v. NSA dismissed because "the Court lacks subject matter jurisdiction with respect to plaintiffs’ statutory claims against the United States because Congress has not waived sovereign immunity" and "because information necessary to litigate plaintiffs’ claims is properly subject to and excluded from use in this case by the state secrets privilege and related statutory privileges."

Argued the Justice Department: Director of National Intelligence Dennis Blair "has once again demonstrated that the disclosure of the information implicated by this case, which concerns how the United States seeks to detect and prevent terrorist attacks, would cause exceptionally grave harm to national security."
As the SF Chronicle reported:
Kevin Bankston of the Electronic Frontier Foundation, a lawyer for the customers, said Monday the filing was disappointing in light of the Obama presidential campaign's "unceasing criticism of Bush-era secrecy and promise for more transparency."
No kidding. The story goes on:
In a 2006 lawsuit, the AT&T plaintiffs accused the company of allowing the National Security Agency to intercept calls and e-mails and inspect records of millions of customers without warrants or evidence of wrongdoing.

The suit followed President George W. Bush's acknowledgement in 2005 that he had secretly authorized the NSA in 2001 to monitor messages between U.S. residents and suspected foreign terrorists without seeking court approval, as required by a 1978 law.

Congress passed a new law last summer permitting the surveillance after Bush allowed some court supervision, the extent of which has not been made public. The law also sought to grant immunity to AT&T and other telecommunications companies from suits by customers accusing them of helping the government spy on them.

Nearly 40 such suits from around the nation, all filed after Bush's 2005 disclosure, have been transferred to San Francisco and are pending before Chief U.S. District Judge Vaughn Walker. He is now reviewing a constitutional challenge to last year's immunity law, which the Obama administration is defending.
This is simply unfathomable to me.

The Talking Points Memo website has been especially good about pursuing this story. Aside from taking the word of pundits, they did their own investigating. Zachary Roth's recent post on the subject last night begins as follows:
Is the Obama administration mimicking its predecessor on issues of secrecy and the war on terror?

During the presidential campaign, Obama criticized Bush for being too quick to invoke the state secrets claim. But last Friday, his Justice Department filed a motion in a warrantless wiretapping lawsuit, brought by the digital-rights group EFF. And the Obama-ites took a page out of the Bush DOJ's playbook by demanding that the suit, Jewel v. NSA, be dismissed entirely under the state secrets privilege, arguing that allowing it go forward would jeopardize national security.

Coming on the heels of the two other recent cases in which the new administration has asserted the state secrets privilege, the motion sparked outrage among civil libertarians and many progressive commentators. Salon's Glenn Greenwald wrote that the move "demonstrates that the Obama DOJ plans to invoke the exact radical doctrines of executive secrecy which Bush used." MSNBC's Keith Olbermann called it "deja vu all over again". An online petition -- "Tell Obama: Stop blocking court review of illegal wiretapping" -- soon appeared.

Not having Greenwald's training in constitutional law (and perhaps lacking Olbermann's all-conquering self-confidence), we wanted to get a sense from a few independent experts as to how to assess the administration's position on the case. Does it represent a continuation of the Bushies' obsession with putting secrecy and executive power above basic constitutional rights? Is it a sweeping power grab by the executive branch, that sets set a broad and dangerous precedent for future cases by asserting that the government has the right to get lawsuits dismissed merely by claiming that state secrets are at stake, without giving judges any discretion whatsoever?

In a word, yes.
The problem is that Obama's justice department isn't merely arguing for records that allegedly compromise national security to be sealed from public view. They are also arguing against judicial review, which in no way compromises national security.

If the administration has its way, a president could invoke a state secrets privilege and never have to answer for its actions. And we would have no way of knowing if there was validity for invoking the privilege in the first place.

As Dan Froomkin astutely pointed out yesterday, in his Washington Post blog:
There are two things you really need to know about the "state secrets" privilege.

The first is that the government lied in the 1953 Supreme Court case that established the government's right not to disclose to the judicial branch information that would compromise national security. The widows of three civilian engineers who died in a military airplane crash sued the government for negligence. The government refused to turn over records, citing national security. But some 50 years later, when the records in question were made public, there were no national security secrets in them, just embarrassing information establishing the government's negligence.

The second thing is that the way the state secrets privilege has typically worked since then is that the government can refuse to publicly disclose a specific item of information if it explains why to the judge. The idea is not that government officials get to tell a judge to dismiss an entire case because they don't want to answer any questions at all.

But it is precisely such a sweeping assertion that the Justice Department -- the Obama Justice Department -- is making in three cases that relate to torture and warrantless wiretapping.

There is something utterly un-American about saying that the executive branch can simply tell the judicial branch to butt out of a matter for national security reasons -- and there's no recourse.
I fully concur with that statement. An executive branch that does not have to submit to checks-and-balances is not transparent. It also opens the door to abuse of power. As I complained during the Bush regime, if a president can claim absolute power, without fear of government oversight, there is nothing to stop those in power from doing harm to their political enemines. THAT is why we have checks-and-balances. THAT is why there needs to be some judicial or congressional oversight. The president is not a king. Or a dictator.

Add to this my disgust over Lawrence Summers and the insiders running finance (which I will save for another post, but click here for a great piece from Matt Taibbi), and I am getting fully disgusted with our 2-party system.

I am not upset with everything the president does. For one, he certainly seems to have changed us from global confrontationalists into a country more concerned with seeking cooperation and consensus.

His decision to overturn the Bush ban on expanding embyronic stem cell research and re-establish funding for international organizations that assist in family planning is a reflection of the man I voted for.

But Keith Olbermann made a comment on his show the other night which pretty much represents how I feel. Essentially, Keith said we can't really rely any more about what President Obama says he will do. We need to judge him by the actions he takes.

Because of his many reversals since taking office, I no longer will believe what I hear until I see how the man follows through.

As angry as I have gotten recently, a world ruled by John McCain and Sarah Palin would have been the final nail in our coffin. It would have been depressing beyond belief. Obama, with all his faults, is head-and-shoulders above what we had. McCain-Palin managed to sink below even that level.

However, Obama is not getting a free pass from me when he, and his administration, pursue policies that I feel are dangerous to our country.

Seeking to eliminate checks-and-balances, in any form, is un-American. Mr. Froomkin was exactly right about that.

And I will call President Obama out on it every time.

Unlike the right-wing of this country that always cover for their own, those of us on the left actually hold our leaders accountable for their actions.

Saturday, April 04, 2009

Nothing Came Between Bristol Palin And Her Levi

Remember back to the good ol' days of 1981 when 15 year old Brooke Shields said that "nothing" came between her and her Calvin Kleins? If not, just click on the above video from brookenook.com, featured on YouTube.

If Levi Strauss & Company wanted to make a splash today, they should feature an ad by teenager Bristol Palin, saying "you know what comes between me and my Levi...."

They won't of course, but it would be appropriate.

In an upcoming appearance on "The Tyra Banks Show" former fiancee, and father of Bristol Palin's child, Levi Johnston, admits that Sarah Palin allowed he and Bristol to share a bedroom in her house, so he figured she knew the couple was having sex.

Hmmm, let's see, a woman whose prime claim to political celebrity is her alleged super-morality, including advocating abstinence as the sole form of birth control, allows her pregnant, unmarried daughter to share a bedroom under her roof with the man who got her pregnant? What's wrong with this picture?

What sets this story apart from just obtrusive tabloid journalism is that Sarah Palin continues to send signals that she is considering a run for the presidency in 2012.

What, thus far, is Palin's qualification for the job? Certainly not her command of domestic and foreign policy.

No, Governor Palin has been propped up by the self-righteous right, as a paragon of virtue and motherhood. Her supporters have asked us to elevate her because her values (not to mention, marksmanship) are allegedly so spot-on, that she would be a pillar of morality in our decadent society.

As the L.A. Times reports:
Levi, who was sharing a room with Bristol at the Palin residence before their breakup, tells Tyra he believes Sarah Palin knew they were having sex and says they practiced safe sex “most of the time.”

Based upon remarks from the baby's father, it certainly appears that Sarah didn't come between Bristol and her Levi.

I hope the Governor does decide to make a run in 2012. If she does, I say break out the popcorn and let's have a field day.

Seriously, I can't wait to see what moral issues Palin chooses to lecture about next.

Wednesday, April 01, 2009

The Tone-Deaf Republican Budget

Continuing their recent imitation of lemmings, steadily careening off a cliff, the tone-deaf House Republicans unveiled their new budget...and CEOs everywhere applauded.

Just who benefits from the new Republican alternative to President Obama's budget proposal? Here's how the Washington Post reports it:
After getting blasted last week for presenting a budget plan light on details, House Republicans today unveiled a more complete proposal that would cut taxes for business and the wealthy, freeze most government spending for five years, halt spending approved in the economic stimulus package and slash federal health programs for the poor and elderly.
Unbelievably, the GOP is calling for deeper tax cuts for the wealthy and are taking the hatchet to programs like Medicare and Medicaid, as well as programs designed to aid the poor and elderly.

Are they joking?

Check out this link to view the analysis of the Citizens for Tax Justice to the Republican proposed tax code and look at the chart on the first page (pictured above). It makes it abundantly clear that the GOP has one priority...making sure the rich get richer and the rest of us go away.

Those days are gone. If they keep up their self-destructive policies much longer, we may be saying this about the GOP as well.